The Australian landscape is a confusion of innate brutality and introduced refinement. Polite interventions early in our colonisation ‘civilised’ an otherwise harsh and often hostile environment where unfamiliar botanical species could poison and every bite and sting could kill. The indigenous landscape is ancient and its sunburnt beauty, once learnt, is never forgotten. Like the landscape itself it is scarred into the hearts and minds of Australians – it is part of us and we, of it. Any man made intervention in the outback symbolises shelter, respite, even salvation and the adaptive use of artifice underpins the tradition of building construction in this country.
The introduced landscape design in cities like Melbourne provides contrast and relief, and in that relief exists another type of beauty – shade, autumnal colour, soothing lushness to offset the incessant dry. Order. Scale. Melbourne is a dense city that is counterbalanced by the vastness of its gardens. They nurture the city in an all enveloping green embrace and provide succour and comfort for all. In summertime our gardens are full of visitors who take advantage of the unencumbered accessibility that sets us apart – no fenced ‘resident’s only’ gardens, no ‘keep off the grass’ signs. Tourists and locals alike take advantage of the ring of green formed by Flagstaff, Treasury, Fitzroy and the Royal Botanical Gardens along with The Domain and our site – Queen Victoria Garden, which is directly across St Kilda Rd from the National Gallery of Victoria and on a busy pedestrian route to the CBD, Federation Square, the cricket at the MCG, tennis at Melbourne Park and live performances at the Sir Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
As a tribute to the then monarch and in the capital city of the state that bears her name, the Queen Victoria gardens are certainly an example of an introduced landscape. In the style of the English picturesque period of the late 18th century they adopt the symmetrical asymmetry of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, combining plane tree lined avenues with artificially constructed ‘hills and valleys’ There is a water feature, a monument and discretely located folly – a bandstand – that is framed by a plane tree allee and located atop a ‘hill’ at the southernmost end of the garden. A contemporary sculpture ‘The Pathfinder’ was added to gardens in the early 1970's. There is also a relatively level piece of lawn which directly opposes the NGV. With that axial connection and the city skyscrapers as a backdrop it is the obvious location for a temporary pavilion.
The purpose of the pavilion is to make a place over the summer months for recitals, presentations, lectures, readings and performances in a well designed and nurturing shelter. The hay sheds and barns, shearers’ sheds and verandahs of the outback are Australia’s meeting rooms and community centres. We congregate in these rudimentary structures and host weddings, balls, meetings about impending drought or inevitable fire. They are potent places. The Melbourne Pavilion is a simple 15mx15m steel structure with glazed roof and fully automated outer skin. It provides shade and shelter and filters the harsh sun. It’s precedent can be seen on distant hills and far horizons in the Australian outback.